Don’t let the title fool you. I’m not talking using the words in your writing. I’m talking using the words as you are writing. I lived in the Boro this summer, almost quite literally, and picked up some great wisdom from my graduate classes. I thought I’d share.
I loved my literacy class. Felt right at home in there. The vibes among the professor, the doctoral students, and the outcast, me, were all in sync. My professor opened my eyes to one word that makes all the difference when it comes to learning—curiosity. We teachers can’t teach natural curiosity. We can inspire and encourage, but the really great learners have a natural curiosity that drives them toward answers. So writers, let loose your curiosity and feel free to explore. I love it. I could spend hours researching online. I could spend hours traveling across country to visit special places. I could spend hours reading or hours talking to people who have their own natural curiosity.
Most entry level English students know what a metaphor is. It’s like a simile—without the like. He is a dog. She is a social butterfly. The guy who sits next to me in class is a vulture. Conceptual metaphors exist on a more subliminal level. Take the novel Heart of Darkness, for example. The novel itself expresses a theme of uncertainty or ambiguity. The author uses numerous vague words throughout the novel to create a sense of dimness. The metaphor runs through the entire work and adds a deeper level of meaning to the story. I like using conceptual metaphors in songs. Crafting the conceptual metaphor is a great mental work out for every writer.
Speaking of ambiguity, here’s a word that was foreign to me until I stepped into my stylistics class. Liminality literally refers to a state of ambiguity, that feeling of being stuck in the middle, on the threshold, too far to turn back, too close not to keep going. Liminality is a vital element of YA fiction. The characters find them in a state of liminality as they cope with transcending from adolescence into adulthood. Not an easy place to be. I suppose teen angst is a by-product of liminality. But liminality isn’t just limited to teens. Adults find themselves there too. We change every day. Who I am today is not who I was yesterday. Adults find themselves stuck in the middle of caring for the children and caring for their aging parents. It’s hard watching your parent grow old. The inner turmoil that comes with change creates a sense of liminality. Liminality creates tension. Tension keeps the reader turning the pages.
I picked up this word totally by accident. Some might say by fortunate discovery, ah, serendipity. Actually, I was writing a paper on liminality and clicked on the wrong term as I Googled. But the word limerence is quite similar to liminality, but it very specificially deals with romance. So romance writers take note. You probably already know this, but now you’ll know why your writing techniques work. It’s a psychological thing. Psychologist Dorothy Tennov came up with the term. Limerence refers to a romantic state of mind that occurs when one person is so attracted to another that she or he becomes obsessed with the need for reciprocal feelings. When these feelings are not reciprocated, the limerence goes away. Limerence can develop into true love. Or not. The concept is worth researching if you are writing about relationships. Human beings are weird, obsessive, sensitive, emotional, dramatic creatures. When one of these creatures suffer from limerence, a story naturally evolves. And limerence involves tension, lots and lots of tension, again a key ingredient in what makes a novel a success.
Of course, I had to include my favorite word. But writers beware. Too much serendipity in novel makes the work unbelievable. Having the right people or tools to magically show up just when they are needed to solve a problem seems a bit unrealistic. Serendipty, of course, is a happy accident, something someone discovers without looking for it. Sometimes you can search your entire life for the answer to a question, and then almost miraculously when you finally give up looking, you stumble across what you’ve been looking for. A happy accident? Happy, yes. Accident? I don’t think so. God orchestrates everything. I believe in divine appointments. I believe in answered prayers. I believe in miracles. He knows our hearts desires, especially when we’ve honored Him. So open your eyes, and roll with the serendipity when you find yourself face to face with it.
So, folks, it’s your turn to get to work. Share your thoughts with me. I’d love to hear what you think every writer needs to use—or know.